Bringing culture to the classroom

From learning about popular games and festivals to tasting traditional foods, experiential lessons are taking language learning to new depths in the Lower School.  

Alice Yang is a Lower and Middle School Chinese teacher. She said she strives to consistently incorporate cultural experiences in her classroom. 

“Compared with merely teaching language skills, providing a cultural experience is not only richer but also more enjoyable for students, especially for active, curious, and energetic boys,” said Yang. “Immersing them in cultural studies can foster a greater interest in language learning.” 

"Learning about Chinese culture has inspired and helped me learn about Chinese tradition and reflect on my own,” Kesi ’30 added. 

Yang has taught units on Chinese tea, Mahjong –a popular tile game in China— and invited Chinese yo-yo performers to do a demonstration for grade 6 boys. 

“The Chinese yo-yo experience really helped me become more invested in learning Chinese because it helped me to see all the cool things you can learn in Chinese class,” said Dex ’30. 

“While grammar, vocabulary, and sentences learned in Chinese class may fade from memory as students grow older, these experiences remain ingrained as positive memories associated with their language studies at school,” Yang explained. 

Lower School Spanish Teacher Mirian de Ossorno approaches her lessons similarly. She said her program is designed to immerse boys in cultural practice, which fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Spanish-speaking world.  

“We actively encourage students to infuse elements from their own cultural backgrounds, fostering language proficiency and a sense of excitement, pride, and inclusivity in exploring and sharing diverse cultures.” 

One project she assigned to grade 4 boys was to research a Spanish-speaking country and present information on geography, key historical events, customs, culinary traditions, etc. 

“As students link language learning to concrete, real-world situations, observing their engagement strengthens their understanding and proficiency and makes learning the language more practical and enjoyable for the boys,” said de Ossorno. “Doing these things helps the boys not just learn words but also see how cool and interesting languages can be in real life.” 

Yang and de Ossorno also stress how learning about diverse cultures fosters an inclusive community, and helps students develop multicultural competence, enabling them to navigate and appreciate cultural differences. 

“Imagine, one day, when these students decide to visit China. They will know how to use chopsticks correctly and understand the taboos associated with them. They may stroll through a supermarket and recognize a snack they tried during a unit on food study. Spotting the Chinese character “福” on a door, they'll recall writing it with a calligraphy brush in class and understand why this character is posted upside down,” said Yang. “They might visit a local park and proudly exhibit their Chinese shuttlecock-kicking skills. Learning about culture transforms the language class from a mere subject into a gateway leading to a new perspective, a fresh way of thinking, and a world where we are different yet connected.” 


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